Can Cannabis Treat the Symptoms of IBS | cannabisMD

Can Cannabis Treat the Symptoms of IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and cannabis treatment

What is IBS?

First things first, let’s clarify what irritable bowel syndrome actually is.

IBS is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms that primarily affect the large intestine. Some of the most common symptoms that fall under the IBS umbrella include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Bloating and excess gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Mucus in stools
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Sudden and intense need to use the bathroom
  • Vomiting

The exact cause of IBS isn’t clear at this point. However, researchers are learning more every day about the condition and its potential causes.

Potential Causes of IBS

There are a number of possible factors that can lead to the development of the symptoms of IBS, including:

  • Frequent, uncontrollable contractions of the muscles in the intestine
  • Inflammation of the intestine
  • Severe infections in the digestive system
  • Changes in gut flora (good and bad bacteria in the digestive system)
  • Abnormalities in the nervous system

Recent research also suggests that people who are deficient in endocannabinoids (the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors) are also susceptible to IBS.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency

The endocannabinoid system (also known as the ECS) plays an important role in regulating a number of the body’s functions, including:

  • Appetite
  • Immune responses
  • Mood
  • Digestion
  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Reproduction

In 2008, a researcher and neurologist named Dr. Ethan Russo was the first to suggest that an endocannabinoid deficiency could cause IBS.

He has argued that people who don’t contain a sufficient number of cannabinoids are more susceptible to some of the most common symptoms of IBS, such as pain and nausea.

Some researchers have said that low levels of serotonin can contribute to IBS. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced primarily in the digestive system.

People like Russo disagree with this assertion, noting that serotonin-targeting medications are not particularly successful in treating IBS symptoms.

More research still needs to be conducted to see if cannabis is more effective in treating IBS. There are a number of anecdotal reports touting its benefits, but there is a lack of clinical evidence to back up these claims.

How Can Cannabis Treat Symptoms of IBS?

Listed below are some of the most commonly studied symptoms of IBS, along with specific information on how medical cannabis products can be used to treat them.

Diarrhea

Cannabis can be extremely beneficial for people who struggle with diarrhea-dominant irritable bowel syndrome. It’s been shown to reduce hypermotility. This term refers to food moving too quickly through the GI tract.

Cannabis can also ease abdominal cramping that contributes to diarrhea.

Abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of IBS. For years, cannabis has been used to treat all kinds of pain, including in the abdomen.

Cannabis reduces pain sensitivity and also reduces inflammation throughout the body — especially in the GI tract and intestinal lining — to further benefit people with IBS.

Depression

People with IBS often suffer from mental health conditions like depression and anxiety in addition to physical pain and discomfort.

What’s worse is that depression and anxiety can actually worsen other symptoms of IBS and cause those who suffer from the condition to feel as though they’ll never get better.

Cannabis, specifically the non-psychoactive component known as CBD (cannabidiol), has been shown to significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. It works as both an immediate treatment and also has longterm positive effects.

How to Use Cannabis to Treat the Symptoms of IBS

Now that you know how effective cannabis can be in treating the symptoms of IBS, let’s go over the most effective ways to use it.

Best Administration Methods

You have several options when it comes to consuming cannabis to treat your IBS symptoms. Some of the most popular methods of administration include:

  • Smoking: Smoking allows for fast absorption and almost instant relief, but some people complain about the smell of the smoke and irritation to their lungs.
  • Vaping: Vaping also provides near-instantaneous relief and it’s easier on the lungs than smoking.
  • Sprays: Sprays come in a variety of flavors and are easy to carry and use discreetly on the go.
  • Tinctures: Tinctures are alcohol-based cannabis extracts that can be added to food and drinks.
  • Edibles: Edibles are discrete and one of the more fun ways to consume cannabis, but they’re not the most efficient since much of the product is lost during the digestive process.

If you don’t live in a state where medical or recreational cannabis is legal, you may be able to buy versions these products that are only made with hemp-derived CBD only. Hemp-derived CBD is legal throughout the U.S.

CBD oil and other products are best for treating pain and anxiety associated with IBS. They can also be used to relieve spasms in the intestinal tract that lead to diarrhea and cramping.

Best Strains for IBS Symptoms

If you are using the cannabis plant to treat your symptoms, it’s important to keep in mind that some strains are better than others when it comes to providing relief from IBS. It all depends on the specific symptoms you’re looking to treat.

If you’re looking for cannabis to help with depression and anxiety, some strains to try include:

  • Blue Dream: This is a hybrid strain that’s suitable for daytime use since it will relax you but won’t make you feel sleepy.
  • Pennywise: This is another hybrid that’s safe for daytime use.

For those who want to help control diarrhea caused by IBS, these strains are good options:

  • Jean Guy: This is a Sativa-dominant strain that will relieve cramps and help you feel energized.
  • Lemon Jack is also very energizing and best for use during the daytime.

To treat abdominal pain, consider one of these strains:

  • Jack Herer: This strain is high in THC and terpenes (compounds that give plants their smell) to help reduce inflammation and pain while also causing you to feel energized and uplifted.
  • Harlequin: This is a good strain for those who want pain relief but don’t want a strong “high” feeling after consuming it.

If you’re not sure which strain is right for you, talk to someone at your local dispensary to find out what they recommend. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — they’re there to help and want you to have a good experience.

CBD Products for IBS

If you want to use CBD oil or another CBD-infused product to treat your IBS, it’s important to make sure you’re getting high-quality CBD that will actually relieve your symptoms.

CBD has become very popular in the last few years, but the market is largely unregulated. This means that lots of companies are duping customers desperate for relief with sub-par products.

How to Choose CBD Products

If you want to use CBD oil, CBD topicals, or CBD vape oil to treat your IBS symptoms, keep these tips in mind to make sure you’re getting a good product.

  • Only buy from companies that pay to have their products tested by an independent, third-party lab.
  • Only buy products made with organic CBD to avoid consuming toxins from the soil or pesticides.
  • Avoid products that contain lots of fillers or artificial sweeteners.
  • Buy whole-plant extracts so that you get more of the benefits the plant has to offer.
  • Avoid petroleum-processed products, as this can leave petroleum solvents behind that may negatively impact your health.

Be especially wary when you’re buying CBD online. Look for online reviews and check out a company’s Better Business Bureau rating to make sure they’re a legitimate business and don’t have any questionable complaints against them.

Cannabis is Not a Cure for IBS

As you can see, cannabis can be extremely beneficial for minimizing the symptoms of IBS.

But, it’s important to note that, so far, there is no research that suggests that cannabis can cure IBS.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use cannabis or CBD-only products to treat your condition.

When you’re IBS symptoms are under control, you’ll feel better and have more energy to put toward identifying and combating the root cause of your disorder. Cannabis can be a great stepping stone to help you overcome IBS, but it shouldn’t be viewed as a treatment option in and of itself.

If you want to learn more about medical cannabis and how it can be used to treat the symptoms of IBS, check out some of our other articles today.

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